Few Remaining Obama Inaugural Tickets In High Demand

This story was written by Caitlin Quinn, Massachusetts Daily Collegian
The hottest ticket on the market right now gets you a spot to stand outside on a January morning, packed in with millions of strangers.

Thousands of Massachusetts residents are hoping to join the record-sized crowds that will watch Barack Obama give his first speech as president in January.

Tickets to the inaugural address on Jan. 20 are given to each Congressperson to distribute upon request to their constituents. The office of U.S. Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts will receive 198 tickets, but won't come close to meeting the demand.

"We've had more than 5,000 requests through e-mail, phone calls, faxes and letters," said Neal's spokesperson, William Tranghese. "Most of the calls came in the day after the election."

Neal's office is still taking requests by e-mail to preztix@gmail.com, but according to Tranghese, it's unlikely further requests will be honored at this point, as the number of requests is already far past the limit.

Tickets from Neal's office will be distributed on a first-come first-serve basis.

U.S. Rep. John Olver's office also warns that they've already received 1,000 more requests than available tickets.

"We've received requests for approximately 1,200 tickets," said Olver spokeswoman Sara Merriam. "That number is continuing to grow every day. The volume picked up the morning after the election. The requests have been coming in steadily ever since."

Merriam added that Olver will decide how his office's tickets are distributed.

Tranghese thinks the requests are coming from constituents who supported Obama during the campaign.

"People want to experience the history that's going to be made on inauguration day," he said.

Washington D.C.'s tourism department is expecting 1.5 million people to arrive for the inauguration, making the event three times larger than President Bush's 2005 address, according to the Chicago Tribune.

"There's going to be an unprecedented amount of security in Washington. It's going to be more crowded than ever because of the historic nature of the election," said Tranghese. "People want to witness history."

For Massachusetts residents who manage to obtain the free tickets, costs still remain. Hotels in the D.C. area are already sold out, according to the Associated Press, and rooms in the city have been reserved for over $900, with guests complying with the three and four-night minimums some hotels are requiring.

The majority of the tickets given away by Massachusetts representatives will be standing room only, so people without tickets may be able to stake out spots comparable to the reserved area. Tickets are not needed for standing room on the parade route. Large televisions screens will be put up to broadcast the speech for farther crowds, said Tranghese.

"There are accommodations being made, but with that many people it's going to be difficult," he added.

For those thinking of taking the typical college student's last minute ticket-buying approach, think again. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is overseeing the inauguration ceremony, is writing letters to Web sites such as eBay.com, asking them not to allow tickets to be sold.

According to the Associated Press, she's also drafting a bill that would make selling inauguration tickets a federal crime.

"We're against people selling tickets," said Tranghese. "There should be no cost attached. We support Sen. Feinstein."

The offices of U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy and Sen. John Kerry will also be giving tickets to Massachusetts constituents, and are expected to receive more than the Representative's offices.

In addition to the inaugural address and swearing-in ceremony on the west steps of the Capitol, the festivities surrounding the event will include the traditional parade along Pennsylvania Avenue, a luncheon, balls and galas.

Neal and Olver both plan to attend the ceremony.

"Congressman Olver endorsed Sen. Obama," said Merriam. "He's very excited about the changes an Obama Administration will bring about."
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